Dubious Knowledge (Book One)

Dubious Knowledge

Doubtful Facts, Twisted History and Other Humorosities

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If you like learning with a lively dose of laughter, you’ll love this hilarious book full of fishy facts, twisted history, and general “Dubious Knowledge” from humor columnist Dan Van Oss.

Collected from the best of his weekly “Dubious Knowledge Institute” humor column, these 25 side-splitting features will keep you laughing as you learn. Evoking the style of classic humor columnists such as Dave Barry and Gene Weingarten, Dan expertly melds fact and fiction into a zany mixture of learning and laughter.

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15 Mildly Accurate Facts About Chocolate

THE LURE OF CHOCOLATE has drawn mankind for centuries down its smooth, brown river of enticement, over its sweet, cocoa-flavored falls where, for a split second, we pause to bask in its incomparable flavor, just before smashing on its sharp, calorie-laden rocks below. Advertisers entice us with exciting, made up words such as “chocoriffic” or “choctacular” or “chocsational” or “stupen-dyna-choco-lossal,” some of which I, of course, made up, but which greedy advertisers will now probably steal. So, what is the appeal that this simple substance, when combined with loads of sugar and nuts and caramel and whatever nougat is, has for us? Here are some dubious facts to hopefully distract you because I don’t really have an answer for that one.

Chocolate Facts

  • Mozart referenced chocolate in his opera Cosi Fan Tutte (“What a Windy Tush”) in 1790, when Despina, the maid, steals a Three Musketeers bar from her mistress.
  • A recent study showed that when women crave food, they desire chocolate, but when men crave food, they desire women.
  • In 1890, Robert Strohecker, an American shop owner, created a five-foot-tall chocolate bunny as an Easter promotion for his drug store, after apparently sampling too much of his own product at one sitting.
  • Hollow chocolate bunnies are a by-product of World War II rationing. So, thanks again, Hitler.
  • The Aztec emperor Montezuma drank 50 golden cups of hot chocolate every day. It was thick, dyed red, and flavored with chili peppers, and so gave rise to the phrase “Montezuma’s Revenge.”
  • Chocolate syrup was used for blood in the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. In an interesting coincidence, blood was used for the lake of chocolate scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
  • In 1896, Leonard Hershfield invented the “Tootsie Roll,” named after his daughter, Roll Hershfield.
  • In 1930, Franklin Mars invented the Snickers Bar, named after his lifelong battle with hidden, laughing voices that constantly whispered he was no good.
  • People who love chocolate are humorously considered “chocoholics.” Those with extreme cravings join “chocoholics anonymous,” where they receive “chocotherapy” on chocolate couches from solid chocolate psychiatrists wearing chocolate bunny costumes while inhaling tanks of pure chocolate air.
  • John Cadbury, an English Quaker, began roasting and grinding chocolate beans to sell in his tea and coffee shop in 1824. Consequently, his tea and coffee were really terrible.
  • As determined by Federal Standards of Identity, which is an actual thing with real employees, real chocolate must contain chocolate liquor. “White chocolate” has none, and probably got its job because its parents were rich and connected.
  • The botanical name of the chocolate plant is Theobramba cacao, which is, coincidentally, the same sound effect your lower intestine will make after eating an entire bag of M&Ms.
  • Count Chocula is neither a real count nor made of chocolate. He is actually a viscount and made of carob.
  • The inventor of the chocolate-chip cookie sold his idea to Nestle Toll House for a lifetime supply of chocolate. The inventor of biscotti, appropriately, died in poverty.
  • A lethal dose of chocolate for humans is about 22 pounds, which explains why the CIA sent a 22-pound chocolate bar to Saddam Hussein every year.

Horsing Around with Derby Days

THE HINT OF SPRING IS IN THE AIR, the tulips are blooming, and, unless you are a member of Congress, your taxes are done. That means it’s time for that historic springtime tradition featuring humongous hats, the Kentucky Derby. Much like the sport of curling in the Winter Olympics, except without the excessive boredom, this is our infrequent chance to see tiny men coerce large animals around a dirt track. But the spectacle that is the Derby is more than just the race; it is the culmination of the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival, a party celebrating all that is horse racing in America, which I assume to mean, mostly, gambling. Plus mint juleps; don’t forget those.

The most exciting two minutes in sports

The race is one and a quarter miles, about the distance I’ve run the entire past decade, and is held at the world famous Churchill Downs, so named because Winston Churchill bombed it during World War II. Or a guy named Winston got bombed there during two World Wars; I’m not sure. The race features colts (male horses) or geldings (male horses who no longer need to worry about creating more male horses). Fillies (attractive women in western movies) have their own race called the Kentucky Oaks, which they seem to be fine with, as the National Organization for Women does not include horses at this time. Derby horses are usually three years old, as the two year olds think everything is “mine!” and four year olds are too busy getting prepped for pony preschool. The race is coined “The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports,” a name it took from Arm Wrestling in 1959. It is also called “The Run for the Roses,” as “Prance” and “Trot” for the roses seemed a little too horse-ish. A large drape of 564 red roses, one for each of the million dollars lost by the last-ditch losers who bet on the 52-1 horse, is placed on the neck of the winner. The Kentucky Derby is the first leg of the Triple Crown; the other two legs being the Belmont Stakes and the Preakness. The fourth leg is presumed missing, possibly stolen by a disgruntled jockey, giving the whole series kind of a wobbly feel in my opinion. Sir Barton became the first Triple Crown winner in 1919; I’m not sure what place his horse came in.

Derby facts

  • The race was begun in 1875 by Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, who, despite having a famous name, still got beat up at recess. It has been run continuously since, although I imagine if the weather is really bad in the winter they take a break so the horses can come inside for some hot chocolate with those little marshmallows.
  • The first race was run on May 17, 1875, in front of 10,000 spectators, most of whom were just there hoping to see a horse crash, and included a field of 15 three-year-old horses. A second, less popular race of 3 fifteen-year-old horses was also run, some of who are still finishing.
  • The fastest time posted in the Derby was 1 minute, 59 2/5 seconds in 1973, when Secretariat handily beat Proletariat and Judas Iscariot In A Chariot for first place.
  • The Derby also has the largest purse of any of the modern stakes races – an immense, rose-patterned Vera Bradley bag kept securely in a vault on the grounds.
  • The mint julep, a drink consisting of bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup, is the traditional drink of the race, and can also be used as a cough expectorant or aftershave in a pinch.
  • Women attending the race traditionally wear large, elaborate hats, which are used to hide the fact that they are drinking so many mint juleps. Men wear whatever they want, because, well, they’re men.
  • Another tradition is the playing of “My Old Kentucky Home” by Stephen Foster, although he’s getting pretty old now and it’s getting kind of embarrassing when he can’t hit the high notes.

So, if you’re ever in Kentucky in the springtime, make sure you plan to experience our nation’s “Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports,” unless, of course, there’s an arm-wrestling tournament going on at the same time.

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Shopping Survival Guide for Men

Shopping Survival
Guide for Men

How a Man Can Survive a Shopping Experience Without Having to Gnaw His Own Arm Off


A frank and hilarious guide to every man’s mind-numbing nemesis: Shopping.

Guys: spent one too many Saturdays marooned at The Mall? Rejuvenate your manhood with the Shopping Survival Guide for Men. This indispensable sanity-saver exposes the hidden history and insidious psychology of shopping (Hint: it’s crazy), plus cool-headedly guides you through the treacherous, credit card-melting mazes of:
  • Shoes: “If you’ve ever been in the shoe section of any major department store, you now know what the gross national product of Belgium would look like if it consisted of footwear, which, for all I know about Belgium, it does.”
  • Makeup: “Egyptians used cochineal bugs to make red dye for their lips, and I don’t even care what ‘cochineal’ means because the word ‘bugs’ is after it.”
  • Prom Dress Shopping: “Like most men, all you know about prom dresses is that they are more expensive than a good set of tires.”
  • Fashion Terminology: “Puckered Bodice: A banned professional wrestling move involving a lemon, a folding chair, and a car battery.”
  • Shopping History: “1687: Isaac Newton develops the law of universal gravity after his wife’s shoe rack collapses on him.”
Melding together the whimsical wit of Douglas Adams, the laugh-out-loud narratives of Dave Barry, and the pop-culture cleverness of James Lileks, Dan Van Oss crafts a fresh and funny guide for any man who’s ever been trapped in the Seventh Circle of Dillard’s.

Don’t get dragged to The Mall without it!

Available at:


“Shopping Survival Guide for Men” audiobook (read by Johnny Heller)

Johnny Heller has narrated nearly 500 titles for adults, young adults and children.  He is a multi-Audie Award Nominee and Winner. Publishers Weekly named him a Listen Up Award Winner 2008-2104.  Audiofile Magazine named him a Best Voice of 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014 and one of the top voices of the 20th Century.  He is a multiple Earphone Award winner.

Note to Amazon Kindle readers: This book is WhisperSynced, which means that if you own the Kindle version, you can add the audiobook for just $1.99. WhisperSync allows you to listen or read on your devices without losing your place.

The Psychology of Shopping (Hint: It’s Crazy)

Some scientists have shown that it is quite natural to see increased brain activity in females when they smell fresh shoe leather, or for dopamine levels to skyrocket at the sight of the words “Extra 30% Off!” These same scientists say this shows that shopping is a normal reaction to post- and pre-cognitive responses concurrent with an a-lateral, psycho-tropic brain, and is a healthy outgrowth of the money-to-happiness-to-shoe ratio necessary to sustain life quality. These same scientists are all women.

You’re Not Fat, You’re Just Three 5’s In A 15 Suit (Understanding Sizes)

Stores, now exploiting women’s egos, compete to adjust their sizes as low as possible in order to make shoppers feel as if they’ve somehow lost 10 pounds between the parking lot and the fitting room. A dress that is a six at Bloomingwhip’s is a four at Minglethorpe’s, which in turn is a two at Stuffington’s down the street. Marilyn Monroe, who was a size 12 in the 60s, would be a size six today. The result of all this is that clothing sizes have become smaller and smaller, down not only to “zero” but “triple zero”; clothing so small that when you put it on you can only exist as a cardboard cutout in the First Dimension. In time, clothing sizes will be described only in negative numbers, as women find themselves shrinking into an inverted alternate universe where only they can see themselves, and still they will think their butts are too big.


THE HANDBAG SECTION is an area of your average department store that, if designed by men, would consist of a single, medium-sized cloth sack with a drawstring on it, hanging from a stick, suitable for carrying any number of objects, but, of course, with an almost criminal lack of style. Like shoes, there are about as many handbag styles as there are overly emotionalized reality TV shows, and with less apparent purpose to the male eye. You can choose from Totes, Satchels, Saddle Bags, Backpacks, Hobo Bags, Shoulder Bags, Clutches and Evening Bags; Wallets, Travel Bags, and Diaper Bags, not to mention Doctor’s, Drawstring, Half-moon, Messenger, Evening, Flat, Trapezoid, Baguette, Bucket, and Bowling Ball bags. Some bags even have bags of their own, like a kangaroo mother’s pouch and her baby; these are bags that fit inside larger bags, with pocket books inside of those, and wallets inside of those – quite possibly on down to the atomic level, where scientists someday hope to successfully insert a Gucci electron into a Versace molecule without blowing up Bloomingdales.

Fitting Rooms

IF YOU HAVE BEEN UNABLE to find your way out of your shopping dilemma by now, which, come to think of it, no man ever has, you have possibly been sucked in to the Fitting Room Area, a place where you can actually see time slow down on the wall clocks. If professional baseball players could bat while their wives where trying on 48 different versions of the same sweater in a fitting room next to the batter’s box, they would be able to bat .800, as the laws of physics would slow time to a crawl, and they could not only see the seams on the ball, but be able to look back in time to see at what factory it was made and what each worker had for lunch. It is an unfamiliar fact that Albert Einstein discovered the Theory of Relativity while waiting for Mrs. Einstein to try to fit into a girdle two sizes too small at an Unmentionables Shop in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Home Improvement Survival Guide

Home Improvement Survival
Guide for Men

How a Man Can Survive a Home Improvement Project Without Losing His Sanity or a Finger


Guys: tired of being the only man on your block who can’t change a flashlight battery without hiring an electrician? Wondering why your wife puts the local emergency room on speed dial every time you pick up a hammer? Peeved because your last home improvement project ending up costing more than your wedding? The Home Improvement Survival Guide for Men is for you!

Available for pre-order at:


Wiring and Electrical Basics

There’s nothing quite like the feel of completing a practical, home enhancing electrical project, unless it’s the mind-numbing buzzing you’re still recovering from because you forgot to turn off the breaker to the outlet you were working on again. So be warned; electricity, while providing us with many modern home conveniences such as egg steamers, classic vibrating football games and electric bills, is quite capable of sending you a very specific message, which is, usually, “you were really dumb to touch that.” But not to worry; about 80% of the time, you can fix about 25% of a quarter of most of your electrical problems in less than 15 minutes.

Unclogging a Drain

Occasionally, which in Home Improvement Language means “it will inevitably happen at the most inopportune time”, you will encounter a clogged sink, shower, or bathtub drain. Sometimes this is only a plugged P-trap, but I’m not going to judge you for your personal health issues, and I would also suggest not mentioning such a thing to your friends. Your best friend in these cases is usually a plunger, which probably says a lot about how you choose who to hang around with. In most cases, a little elbow grease can release the clog, although, occasionally a little knee or leg grease may be called for. However, sometimes the clog is just too stubborn, like a two-year-old who won’t eat his lima beans, which, come to think of it, may be what’s clogging your sink. In any case, here are some tips that may help you out of your jam without the use of convenient and helpful chemicals.

Fixing a squeaking door

If you are an average, thriving, well-adjusted member of society, you may have already discovered the advantages that doors have to offer. They keep out the cold and heat, provide security, and are an excellent way to show how angry you are by slamming them. They also, just like your knees after that ill-advised pickup basketball game with the neighborhood high school boys, will show inevitable wear over time. This usually manifests itself in the form of squeaks, and in the time of the middle of the night when you are trying to sneak into the bathroom looking for four Advil to take care of your knee pain. You may already know the standard American method for getting rid of squeaks, which is to use half a can of WD-40 while doing the indecisive Door Dance: open, close, spray, open, close, spray, open, close on your foot, curse, until realizing that the squeak is not coming from the door, but from the floorboard every time you shift your weight when closing the door.

Renting tools

Some projects will require more tool power than what you currently have in your arsenal, which means it’s time to head to the Home Improvement Warehouse to buy more tools! [Wife: No, it’s not.] Okay, then it’s time to head to the local tool rental emporium, where your grizzled tool rental employee is ready to snort at you in disgust because you don’t know what a “harmonic ridge reamer” is, much less where to put it once it’s turned on, much less how to even turn it on. Or where to plug it in. Or that it runs on gas.

Spending money on a tool rental for a home improvement project may seem counterintuitive; do-it-yourself projects are supposed to save money, after all, but keep in mind that it’s not every day you can manufacture an excuse to run a machine capable of not only grinding a tree stump to powder, but impressing your neighbor as well, up until the point you accidentally grind through the  underground electrical lines that power his house.

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